Several stories about the eviction of a Harlem mosque have blamed greedy white developers and ‘gentrification’ for kicking out the Muslims

It took awhile to find the real reason that the Masjid Aqsa mosque is being evicted: ‘Non-Payment of Rent since September 2012’

Picture-1NY Times The Masjid Aqsa on Frederick Douglass Boulevard near West 116th Street has been crammed into its run-down, rented space for about 16 years, serving the mostly West African congregation of about 1,200. But now, after a persistent rent dispute with its landlord, the mosque finds itself in housing court facing eviction. Its lease agreement expired Sept. 30. Back rent has accumulated. Yet the mosque has stubbornly remained.

But in articles as current as yesterday, we are still hearing that the mosque is being unfairly pushed out. Columbia Spectator After more than 16 years of serving the Muslim communities in New York in New Jersey, Masjid Aqsa, a local mosque located Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 115th and 116th streets, is facing an eviction order from its landlord.

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On one side of Frederick Douglass between 115th and 116th streets sit the newly completed Livmor Condominiums, where a two-bedroom unit sells for $1.2 million. On the other side is the Masjid Aqsa mosque, its green awning tucked between an alleyway tire shop and a Guinean convenience store.

Masjid Aqsa opened more than 16 years ago in a Harlem that was very different from today’s gentrifying neighborhood. But developers are now looking to evict the mosque and build more apartments to meet the ever-growing demand for housing.

“They want to evict us,”, the mosque’s imam, said. “They want to just destroy this building.”

Imam Souleimane Konaté

Imam Souleimane Konaté

The landlord, 2136 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, LLC, filed an order of eviction for months of unpaid rent, the New York Times reported last month. On Wednesday, Konaté said that the mosque was awaiting a court decision but was not facing any “financial difficulties.” (Of course not, he hasn’t paid any rent for the past 5 months)  The next court date is Jan. 31.

For the 1,500 congregation members, however, the pending court decision means that a hub of Little Senegal, one of the city’s largest African neighborhoods, hangs in the balance. “Closing this place down, that means there will be no African community,” Konaté said. “Some people will come from Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, even New Jersey, because the service here is perfect.”

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Joseph Rabizadeh, the plaintiff in the case against the mosque and the CEO of the company that owns the building according to public records, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“If this mosque moves, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Amadou Doumbia, a Bronx resident from Cote d’Ivoire who has been coming to Masjid Aqsa for the past 11 years and said he attends every prayer session. “Maybe the whole community will want to move.” (Maybe that’s the idea?)

“It’s not just only prayer here,” Konaté said. “We’re defending Africans when it comes to immigration, police, health, financial issues.” “We’re teaching people good manners … how to be good citizens, how to prevent crime, how to vote,” he added.

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The mosque sits in the middle of a stretch of Harlem that has changed considerably in recent years. Konaté said he’s not surprised by the changes. “When you walk down the street, you see 10 churches,” Ayman said. “It’s important for us to have this one place.”

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